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Czechia investigates Raiffeisen Bank due to its activities in Russia

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 29, 2023 8:38 PM 2 min read
The logo of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is pictured above the entrance of the bank's headquarters building on Feb. 1, 2023 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images)
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Czechia has opened an investigation of the Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) over its ongoing business activities in Russia, the Czech Television public broadcaster reported on Aug. 29.

The authorities are responding to a criminal complaint filed by the local Association for the Rights of Citizens and Entrepreneurs, which said that by conducting business in Russia, the RBI is financing Moscow's aggression against Ukraine.

The group pointed out that in 2022, Raiffeisen's Russia-based companies have paid up to $720 million from their profits to the Russian state budget in taxes. According to Czech Television, the bank's gains in the Russian Federation grew by 9% in the first half of 2023.

As Austria's second-largest bank lender, Raiffeisen plays a significant role in Russia's financial system and is one of only two foreign banks classified as "systemically important" by the Russian central bank.

This underscores the bank's importance to the Russian economy, particularly in the face of extensive Western sanctions. Despite the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Raiffeisen has continued to operate in Russia.

On Feb. 18, Reuters reported that the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) was investigating Raiffeisen for its activities in Russia. The European Central Bank (ECB) urged Raiffeisen on March 24 to devise an exit strategy for selling or shutting down the group's Russia branch of operations.

However, according to Reuters, the bank and Austrian officials may be delaying the pullback in hopes of normalizing relations with Russia after the end of the war.

The bank responded to the criticism by saying that it is reducing its business activity in the country, minimizing "the RBI Group's cross-border exposure to Russia," and exploring ways of selling or spinning off its Russian branch. It also reminded that it bears responsibility for the integrity of its Russia operations, including more than 9,000 employees in the country.

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